Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 April 2016
Submillimeter wavelengths hold the key to some of the most important aspects of astronomy. These range from star-forming molecular clouds and proto-planetary disks in our galaxy to infrared emitting galaxies at cosmological distances. Indeed, the essential problems of star-formation and galaxy-formation will be directly probed by the submillimeter spectral lines and continuum radiation emitted by these objects. Other fascinating topics falling into the submillimeter band include the Wien component of the cosmic background radiation, containing information on the nature of the early universe, and nearer to home, the spectroscopy of planetary atmospheres. Since the submillimeter contains fundamental information on the physics and chemistry of so many aspects of our universe, every effort should be made to provide the very best instrumentation for these astronomical studies. We should be capable of detection and analysis of even the most distant objects yet conceived.
Telescopes specifically designed for submillimeter astronomy are now operating on high mountain sites and the field is developing in an exciting and rapid fashion. NASA’s airborne program has been in operation for some time and has been of the greatest importance in getting the field started. Both ground and airborne programs will continue to be essential because of their flexibility for implementing new investigations, for instrument development and to support the growth of an active science community, especially students. However, it is now essential to move forward on a space program.